published Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Out to Lunch: Yellow Deli like a cabin in the woods

ANNE BRALY: I can't believe I've been to the Yellow Deli only twice since it opened in April 2008. I mean, when it first opened on Brainerd Road back in the 1970s, I was there front and center just about every week, enjoying the kind of deli food that had never come to Chattanooga. At the time, it was the only place in my neck of the woods I could get a Reuben sandwich. Now, I can find them in many restaurants around town.

So this time, i decided to step out of my comfort zone and have the Original Lamb sandwich. And what a delicious mess it was. When I say mess, that's not a bad thing. It's just that there's a massive amount of bread with this sandwich, then add a little too much of the special sauce, and you have a four-napkin sandwich on your hands.

Our server looked at me curiously when I asked her for a knife and fork to go with my sandwich and chips. I needed them both, though -- the knife for cutting the sandwich in half and the fork when I ended up with the sandwich innards piled in my basket when I took the top piece of bread off.

It sounds like a massive production, and it was a little more than an average sandwich in size as well as flavor. I've had plenty of gyros before, but this was different. This had more thickly sliced lamb and nice slices of cucumbers, lettuce and tomato, along with a special sauce with a sweet edge to it. Altogether, it was pretty good.

HOLLY LEBER: It was only my second time there as well, and both times I've had the Cranberry Cashew salad. This time I added the stew of the day, a creamy, cheesy potato chowder that wishes it were from New England. It was rich and tasty, and the small cup I had was more than enough to satisfy my curiosity and just enough to keep me from feeling too guilty (as I sit here eating a slice of the deli's buttered sourdough bread while I type this).

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Kelly Wegel
    One of Yellow Deli's selections is the Deli Rose sandwich, which has corn beef, roast beef, pepper jack cheese, provolone cheese, hot ketchup and tomato on onion roll bread. It is shown with a fruit plate and a slice of cream cheese pie.

The salad has mostly romaine lettuce, with small cubes of cheese, dried cranberries (or Craisins, as the cool kids call 'em) and sweetened cashews. There are a few slices of tomato as well. Essentially, it's lettuce with a few salad accents on it. They need to stock up some more vegetables on there. Add on more red pepper than the one garnish ring. Or how about some avocado or hearts of palm or cucumbers? And halve the amount of cheese. A salad should not have a matched amount of cheese and greens. All in all, I'm going to say this dish has potential, but it can soar higher up the mountain of salad greatness.

ANNE: The uniqueness of the Yellow Deli is long gone, now that there are so many more restaurants in town than there were when it opened 37 years ago. I was impressed with the crowds, though. It really is in a location where a good restaurant was desparately needed. It serves the UTC crowd, naturally, since its practically in the center of campus, as well as the area's business district.

The look of the place is outstanding. I love all the handmade tables, chairs, the staircase and other appointments that make the plain brick building look and feel like a cabin in the woods, not a busy city street with cars zooming past. I also liked the soft music playing in the background. All in all, it was a nice, relaxing lunch.

HOLLY: For as ... holistic (you know what I mean, and let's just leave it at that) as the Yellow Deli seems to be, I'm surprised they don't have a wider selection of vegetarian dishes. The food was fine but perhaps not wholly satisfactory to my needs as far as a meal goes.

I do like the relaxed environment though. Perhaps I'm the type for whom the Yellow Deli is more appropriate as an alternate-to-coffeehouse venue. Papaya Maté does sound interesting.

E-mail Anne P. Braly at E-mail Holly Leber at

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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GoMocs said...

All should investigate the Yellow Deli before deciding if they want to spend their dollars there. A google search is easily done and read up, both sides. Personally, I remember them from the 70s, they were a "cult" like group then. Educate yourself before going there I suggest.

July 6, 2010 at 10:21 a.m.
notgriscom said...

Well, GoMocs, if it is the cult atmosphere that bothers you, then don't go there. And, if that is indeed the case, quit reading the TFP. With Little Tommy Griscom at the helm, it was not a lot different than Mr. Jim Jones and his following. But, now that Little Tommy has joined Elvis fans everywhere with the sound of "Little Tommy has left the building" maybe the TFP will become less cultish. Those without voices or reasoning seem to curiously end up working as a weekend editor or business editor....perhaps following Little Tommy a bit too closely. Maybe those folks could follow Little Tommy right out the door and and stroll down McCallie Avenue to the Yellow Deli. And if the food doesn't suit them, I am sure there are some outfits around there that will fit --- especially the small ones for those little people.

July 10, 2010 at 3:17 a.m.
laurakei said...

It would be ridiculous to accept the recommendation of someone who says she's been twice and selected the same salad (that she would prefer were "stocked up") both times. If you are disappointed with the vegetarian options, perhaps you should glance over the sandwich selection; the Yellow Submarine sandwich is a veggie option, or the PBBH. I'm also confused by your use of the term "holistic" to describe the Deli, as it's generally a term reserved for the practice of medicine or wellness. Unless the Deli is now offering Yoga...?

Further, GoMocs, you're a moron. It's a deli. They serve food. They will not attack you to beat you about the head with a Bible, nor do they have spinning pinwheels in their eyes, or blank stares. The only reason Ms.Braly received a blank stare during her visit was because she requested a knife and fork to eat a sandwich. I am not a part of the Yellow Deli, but I would also have looked at her strangely.

I suggest that GoMocs and Ms. Leber just eat at home. It's saves the rest of us from your daft opinions that way.

July 10, 2010 at 10:10 p.m.
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